The grandiose Bakun dam project (Down To Earth, Vol 3, No 4) in Borneo is once again in the thick of a mess of its own making. In late April, the Malaysian government's department of environment approved the first of the 3 parts of the dam's detailed environment impact assessment (EIA) report. Critics were infuriated because the construction started without the EIA being made public.
Loggers are busy chopping down the world's oldest rainforest to make way for what will be a 200-metre-high dam, the tallest in Asia. It will submerge 700 sq krn of virgin jungle - equivalent to the size of Singapore; plus, 14 indigenous communities living on the river Bakun have been relocated to work on state-run plantations.
The secrecy surrounding the project evokes strong reactions from environmentalists. "We were told that the studies are covered by the Official Secrets Act. But if the project is really so good, why not release them?" ask 's an indignant Gurmit Singh, advisor to the Environmental Protection Society of Malaysia.